Seven Games: A Human History

Norton. Jan. 2022. 272p. ISBN 9781324003779. $26.95. HIST
Roeder (The Riddler) writes an exploration of how games intersect with the foundation and growth of computer science, machine learning, and humanity in general, with the history of games intermixed. Seven popular games are covered: checkers, chess, go, poker, backgammon, scrabble and bridge with a bit of background along with general theory and strategy for each (a perfect amount to understand unfamiliar games). Dominating most sections is an account of gaming research by computer scientists, starting at the dawn of the computer age, with continued interest from IBM and the University of Calgary, among others. From the idea behind the programs, their development, man vs. machine showdowns (rarely including women), and how current elite game play has been elevated—and in many cases, forever altered—by the approach computers take. Roeder explores how this has made play more uniform and erased individual style and personality from tactics, as well as how it relates to societal changes and relationships with computers overall.
VERDICT A surprisingly introspective look at the history of machine learning as it relates to games, and its impact on gameplay and society. This will have appeal across game enthusiasts, technologists, and those interested in the interplay of it all.
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